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What Does an Estate Lawyer Do

Updated: September 30, 2022

Est. Reading: 4 minutes

An estate planning lawyer provides legal counsel and representation for all processes necessary to the establishment, protection, and management of an estate. Depending upon the size of the estate, types of property, assets portfolio, and interests of the estate owner, an estate planning lawyer is useful in a number of services.

What an Estate Planning Lawyer Does

An estate is all of the money and property owned by an individual. An estate planning lawyer helps organize these assets and possessions so they can be managed during a person's life and distributed upon their death. Various tools and legal documents are used in this process. Here is a list of the common documents and functions of the estate planning process:

Creating Wills

A will is a legal document that establishes the wishes of an individual after their passing. Most notably, wills outline how a person would like their possessions to be distributed amongst their beneficiaries. This includes the transfer of real property, personal property, debts to creditors, digital assets, and bank accounts.

Outside of physical property, a will also detail the terms for the provision of care for any minor children or animals left without a caretaker in the event of someone's death. It can name a guardian for a minor child or incapacitated adult dependent. For animals or pets, transfer of ownership could be given to someone with a close relationship to the animal or to a rescue or farm etc.

An estate planning attorney assists in the creation of a will. They will help you profile and organize your possessions to ensure that everything is listed and classified properly. They will also make sure the will is sound and will go uncontested. 

Setting Up Trusts

A trust is an arrangement in which a third party manages the assets belonging to an individual on behalf of the individual's beneficiaries. For example, a trustee would oversee the compliance, regulation, and financial management of an asset portfolio to ensure that the beneficiaries continue to benefit from the income generated by the portfolio.

A wealthy individual may set up a trust on behalf of their child to make sure they maintain access to the finances, but are relieved of the responsibility of managing them independently. For a living trust, an individual may transfer their assets to be managed by a third party while they are still alive. The benefits may be distributed amongst children or partners.

A trust attorney can guide you through the process of selecting the right kind of trust for your family situation. Whether that be an irrevocable trust, special needs trust, or charitable trust. An estate law attorney can also assist with the drafting of living trusts. They can guide you to the best options for your circumstances and wishes.

Establish a Power of Attorney

Power of attorney is a written document that gives an individual authority to make business decisions, health care decisions, or other legal decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to do so for themselves. A power of attorney is most often used in circumstances where an individual's health prohibits them from making clear decisions. A power of attorney leaves a trusted individual in charge of your personal affairs and can be drafted upon the diagnosis of a deteriorating disease or in good health as preparation for unforeseen circumstances.

an attorney reviewing an estate plan for a client

If dealing with a deteriorating disease, a durable power of attorney will leave a trusted party in charge of the medical decisions throughout your healthcare treatment until you are deceased. A durable power of attorney is an important and careful decision that must be made when you are still of sound body and mind in order for it to be legally binding. An attorney can help advise you on who should take the role and answer questions about the relationship between a power of attorney and other estate planning documents.  

An estate planning lawyer provides legal advice on how to protect your assets in the event of your death. In the state of Arizona, if all assets are defined and given a solid plan of transfer, the family can avoid the probate process. The probate process is the legal process where a court presides over the settlement and distribution of unclaimed assets. It can be costly, time-consuming, and a burden to grieving survivors.

Also, you must have a probate lawyer represent you, as an estate attorney does not deal with probate litigation. Hiring a probate attorney is an additional cost on top of the hassle of probate procedures. An estate planning attorney can also help you set up precautions that protect your assets from additional estate taxes so that your heirs may receive the maximum benefit intended. 

Helping Determine What You Should Include in a Will

Although it is legal to create a will without an attorney, enlisting legal services can ensure that all of your bases are covered. An will planning attorney has extensive knowledge on what assets to look for, what should be listed, and what can be left out of a will. It's important to seek legal counsel to make sure your wishes are legally binding and will be upheld upon your passing.

Helping Determine What You Should Include in a Trust

Similarly, an experienced estate planning lawyer will be able to assess and analyze all of your assets to know what should be included in a trust. Assets that could go into a trust include:

  • Bank accounts
  • Corporate stocks
  • Bonds
  • Tangible investments (like gold or art)
  • Real estate
  • Partnership assets 
  • Life insurance 

The transfer of these assets into the hands of estate trustees can seem like an arduous and overwhelming task. A knowledgeable estate lawyer will be able to support you through the process by simplifying and organizing the steps. 

When Should You Hire an Estate Lawyer

It is never too soon to hire an estate lawyer. Although considering the end of your own life can be uncomfortable, being realistic about the chances of an untimely death or illness can protect your loved ones and your property. Leaving your loved ones without a solid estate plan for how your assets should be divided and cared for can cause major issues and become quite costly. Contact Monahan Law Firm to speak to one of our experienced estate lawyers and begin the process of planning for your future today. 

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Attorney Patrick Monahan

Patrick Monahan

Patrick Monahan is the managing partner of Monahan Law Firm, PLC. Patrick began his legal career practicing real estate, construction, and general business litigation.
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